Mattel Hates Girls

I just saw a book on Amazon that looked so promising, and then, after reading just the first page, realized what a mysogynistic piece of crap it is. “Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer” is absolutely the worst book in the entire, up-to-this-point-merely-nauseating series of books. What the book really says is that Barbie might be able to design a game, but please – leave the REAL coding to the (male) professionals.

In a review of the book by The Daily Dot, Aja Romano calls it an affront to basic decency, and it is. Clearly author Susan Marenco, Random House, and Mattel have only the lowest hopes for girls as anything other than window dressing. In Ms. Marenco’s views as expressed by the book, girls really need a man’s help not only with coding and game development, but with simple computer upkeep tasks like…rebooting… They really shouldn’t worry their pretty heads over things like STEM skills.

I feel like we’re fighting a war that no one but a few other people can even understand. We’re not just fighting to get paid the same as men, or to be respected at the same level as men. We’re fighting to just get other women to consider their own gender as equal to males. We are somehow not getting the message across to our own sisters, that feminism isn’t about preferential treatment for women, but about fair and equal treatment for everyone – regardless of gender. As Emily Shire says in her article at The Daily Beast, “Feminism has a PR problem.”

When I was growing up, it was the 1970s, the “second wave” of feminism. The year I turned 12, the song “I Am Woman” was published, and it’s still one of my go-to anthem songs when I’m alone in my car. It gave me shivers. It was one of those powerful songs, sung by a powerful woman. It spoke to me in ways no person ever did. My heros were Amelia Earhart, Abigail Adams, Grace Hopper, Susan B Anthony, Elizabeth Blackwell, Marie Curie, and Gloria Steinem. My mother worked the entire time I was growing up, more out of a need for her own identity than to supplement the family income. At times, if you did the math in terms of a 40-hour week, she made more than my father did. I don’t really remember her ever telling me I could be anything I wanted, but I do know that I took it for granted that I was the decider of my future, not a man.

I tried to impress upon my daughters that the world was their oyster, even while I was fighting my own battles of self-worth and self-determination. I worked in IT at a time when there were few women in the field – not so different than today. I would answer the phone in the office and be asked to take a message for “the guys.” I was forced to get technical work by failing to pass those messages on, and by going on the calls myself. Even after I had a degree in IT, proving myself competent was a daily fight.

By painting a picture of Barbie as needing the boys to do the real work, I feel personally marginalized by Ms. Marenco. Beyond that, it makes me even more angry to think of all the girls that will read this story, adding it to the already considerable body of work telling them that being female is somehow “less.” The (barely) unspoken subtext of the book is that in order to be a complete person, girls (and by extension women) need men to complete them.

Is this really what we want our girls to think? Is this the message the next generation will also be force fed?